It is always instructive, it is always enlightening, it is sometimes literally scintillating to turn to the pages of God and see what it has to say and how relevantly it speaks to our time and to our lives. That will be true tonight as we turn in our Bibles to the first chapter of Romans. Romans chapter 1 and we’re going to be looking at a somewhat familiar portion of Scripture to anyone who is a student of the Bible. Romans chapter 1, beginning in verse 18 and running through the end of this chapter.
I’m going to read just the first verse to set the stage for the unfolding of this profound truth. Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
This section is about the wrath of God. Admittedly not a popular subject, certainly not a popular subject in the world and not even a popular subject in the church. But an absolutely critical and central subject to any understanding of the gospel, the wrath of God.
Now there are a number of different aspects to the wrath of God. There is what we could call eternal wrath because it is the punishment that God brings upon unbelieving sinners forever in hell…that’s eternal wrath. And the Bible speaks often of that. There is also eschatological wrath, that is the wrath of God that is released at the end of the world described by some of the Old Testament prophets, described by Jesus Christ Himself in the Olivet Discourse and clearly laid out for us in the book of Revelation. Eschatological wrath, that aspect of God’s wrath that is released at the end of the world.
There is also what we could call cataclysmic wrath, like a tsunami, a volcano, a hurricane, an earthquake, a plane flying in to the Twin Towers resulting in thousands of death…cataclysms happen in this world. And they are a reflection of the judgment of God. There is also what you could call consequential wrath. Consequential wrath is the sowing and reaping wrath, you live a certain kind of life and you set in motion certain forces that will produce judgment.
But there is one other kind of wrath and that is the wrath that is presented in this passage and it is the wrath of abandonment. It is the wrath of abandonment. It is that wrath exhibited by God when He turns His back on a society. One of the most tragic scenes on the pages of Scripture would provide a good illustration of it. It is a scene that involves the strongest man who ever lived, the mighty Samson. He is the original Superman, and a real one. According to Judges 16 verses 18 to 21 we read this, “When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines saying, “Come up once more for he has told me all that was in his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands and she made him sleep on her knees and looked for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to inflict him and his strength left him and she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson.” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” And then this, “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. And then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains and he was a grinder in the prison, a job for a mule.” Because of his sin, the Lord left him. The judgment of abandonment.
To the sons of Israel, God said in Judges 10, “You have forsaken me and served other gods, therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen, let them deliver you in the time of your distress.” God is saying I’m done with you. In Proverbs chapter 1 verses 24 to 31 we find a similar sentiment. “Because I called and you refused, I stretched out My hand and no one paid attention and you neglected all My counsel and did not want My reproof, I will even laugh at your calamity. I will mock when your dread comes, when your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes on like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come on you, then they will call on Me but I will not answer. They will seek Me diligently but they shall not find Me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would not accept My counsel, they spurned all My reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices.”
In Hosea 4:17 it is recorded that God said, “Ephraim is joined unto idols, let him alone.” There comes a time when God abandons men. God comes to a point where He lets a people go, lets them go to the consequences of their own sinful choices. They will not accept His counsel, they spurn all His reproof, as Proverbs says, so they eat the fruit of their own choices and they have to be satisfied with the devices they have chosen. Of the Pharisees Jesus said, “Let them alone, they are blind leaders of the blind,” Matthew 15:14, the most terrifying words, “Let them alone.”
It’s a frightening thing to think about that. Frightening thing to think that you might be abandoned by God, that the opportunity for salvation is past, that the day of grace is over. The passages that I read to you relate to an individual in the case of Samson. But for the most part, they relate to a group such as the Pharisees or to a nation, such as Israel. And I think it’s very relevant to talk about this because I’m going to try to show you from this passage tonight that it’s pretty convincing that God has abandoned our nation. God has abandoned America to the effects of its sinful choices. Oh, this isn’t the first nation that it’s happened to, this is the story of history. Acts 14:16, the Apostle Paul said, “In the generations gone by, He…God…permitted all the nations to go their own way.” This is the story of history. All the nations of history go their own way. So like the nations of old, like the nations past, we follow the same cycle of having the truth, rejecting the truth and being abandoned by God.
C.S. Lewis was writing in his book, The Problem of Pain and he wrote this, “The lost enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded and are therefore self-enslaved.” God will abandon sinners to their own choices and the consequences of those choices. And just what is this abandoning act on God’s part, it is the removal of restraining grace. It is when God lets go and turns a society over to its own sinful freedoms and the results of those freedoms. No Scripture more directly confronts this abandonment and its consequences than Romans 1 does. Here is the most graphic and the most comprehensive discussion of what it means to be abandoned by God and it is the best passage that I know of to explain the moral chaos and the confusion that we experience in our own nation at this very time. God’s wrath is already at work in our culture. We’re not waiting for it, we are currently experiencing it.
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SOURCE: Grace to You